Scrapbooks of the ‘last surviving officer of the Flying Squadron of the Trafalgar Fleet’.

Commander Robert Amyett Newman (1793-1883), RN
Publication details: 
SKU: 11714

Sixteen scrapbook volumes, 1836-1883, containing, among a mass of press cuttings over more than 2000 pages, numerous contributions by Newman to newspapers, as well as autograph copies of his letters to the editor of the Naval and Military Gazette under the pseudonym ‘Nauticus’. The newspapers featured include the Devonport Independent, Weekly True Sun, Kentish Gazette, Folkestone Express, Devonport Telegraph, Kensington and Chelsea News. In addition to naval and military matters, Newman has collected cuttings on subjects including British politics, international affairs (including many cuttings on the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath), royalty, railways, obituaries, poor law and state paupers, shipwrecks, lighthouses, Arctic expedition (with illustrations), Suez Canal, boat races, cricket, religion, the weather, the Stockwell murder of 1871, the Dockyard Fire at Devonport in 1841. Also present among the cuttings are numerous poems and illustrations (including several of ships).In addition to their intrinsic interest, the material in the volumes provides an instructive and entertaining insight into the achievements and opinions of a noteworthy nineteenth-century naval character. On Newman’s death at the age of 90 in 1883, he was described in the Annual Register as the ‘last surviving officer of the Flying Squadron of the Trafalgar Fleet’, who ‘also shared in the Walcheren Expedition, and served in America’. According to a letter dated 4 April 1883, published in the Standard newspaper, a cutting of which is present in the sixteenth and last volume in this collection, ‘this gallant veteran officer entered the Navy in 1803, and was present at the capture of the French West India Islands in that year. / He was the last surviving officer of the squadron under the command of Admiral Sir Richard Stachan, Bart, who on the 4th November, 1805, off Ferrol, captured Admiral Dumanoir’s French squadron, which a fortnight before had escaped from Trafalgar. Captain Newman was likewise present at the Walcheren Expedition in 1809. During Bonaparte’s incarceration at St. Helena he waws attached to the guard-ship stationed there, and on one occasion received the honour of an interview with the Emperor.’ A manuscript addition to the cutting reads: ‘Captain N also saw much service during our war with the USA in the early years of the present century.’ An earlier cutting (4 November 1864), corrected by Newman himself, states that he was ‘midshipman of the Courageux, 74. He entered the Navy in 1803 and assisted at the capture of St. Lucia in July 1803, and was at that of the Marengo and Belle Poule in 1806. Served in the San Domingo at Flushing, and assisted in her boats at the capture of four privateers in the Chesapeake, and at the taking of Craney Island, Hampton, &c. In charge of a prize, captured a merchant ship, valuably laden with naval stores; and was wounded when in a tender to the San Domingo in the Chesapeake. Served in boats of the Phoenix at the capture of several pirates in the Archipelago, in 1815. He was promoted to lieutenant December 11, 1827; served in the Coastguard in 1830; at Plymouth from 1840 to 1843; and from the close of 1843 until 1856 was again employed in the Coastguard. He was retired as commander on July 1, 1864.’ A cutting in the first volume records the presentation to Newman on 9 November 1846 of a silver medal by the Coast Guard Service, ‘for his gallant and intrepid conduct in saving the lives of the crew of a pilot cutter, wrecked near the coast guard station of which he was in command, by taking them from the tops in a heavy gale of wind.’ (A manuscript note by Newman’s grandson states that ‘This medal was lent for exhibition at Earls Court. Grandfather didn’t get receipt for it, and so it was lost to our family’.) His activities on behalf of the Chelsea Literary and Scientific Institution are described in cuttings at the beginning of the third volume (in a lecture he urges those who have ‘no sweetheart to attend the lectures, which might prove the means of keeping them out of places of evil repute’). Writing in the Folkestone Express on 5 February 1877 about a lecture he has given at the Hounslow Literary Society he states: ‘I still possess my usual activity of mind and energy. How, Mr. Editor, can a “Newman” be an “Old Man,” thence arises my accustomed activity of mind. In this locality [Hounslow] we have an ample opportunity for it[.] Our’s is an intelligent locality. […] I urge upon my late Folkstonian townsmen to act upon our plan, and disseminate knowledge and amusement among themselves.’The sixteen volumes are all in original leather half-bindings, with marbled boards. All sixteen are 4to, with the dimensions of six of them 24 x 18.5 cm, of nine of them 23 x 17.5 cm, and of one (the first) 19.5 x 16 cm. Numbered 1 to 16, and each signed by Newman (usually ‘R. A. Newman / Commander R.N.’) on the front free endpaper. The volumes are worn and aged (one volume with covers detached), but with the contents legible and complete. On front free endpaper of first volume: ‘R. A. Newman / Lieut R.N. / April 1836. / Correspondence &c / 1st. Volume’. The first 41pp. of the first volume carry autograph transcriptions of communications by Newman and others on naval matters, beginning with ‘The Petition of the Lieutenants of His Majesty’s Navy, to the Admiralty – January 1836 […] Signed, by 608 Lieutenants’. This is followed by five items of correspondence on the same subject, by a number of individuals. The other manuscript material (pp.15-41) comprises seven letters by Newman to the editor of the Naval and Military Gazette, under the name ‘Nauticus’, on the subject of ‘the Abuses of the Royal Naval Charitable Society’. There follow several pages of newspaper cuttings of correspondence on the same subjects, with p.57 carrying a letter by Newman, in his own name, ‘To the Editors of the United Service Gazette’, 23 October 1837, in which he refers to ‘a letter from “Jack Hatchway,” wherein he congratulates me on the success of my exertions (during a period of eighteen months) in endeavouring to remove the many anomalies by which the system of conducting the affairs of the “Royal Naval Charitable Society” has for a series of years been surrounded’. Other cuttings in the volume include a correspondence on a ‘disinterested Captain in the Navy’ including a series of letters written by Newman to the United Service Gazette under the pseudonym ‘A Lieutenant in the Navy’. The second volumes contains a letter by Newman to the editor of the Nautical Standard, 16 October 1847, discusses Strachan’s capture of the French squadron, ‘from the circumstance of my having served in that brilliant affair as volunteer of the 1st class, on board H.M.S. Courageux, Capt. Richard Lee, thus giving the final blow to the “Naval” prowess of France.’ Elsewhere he writes on subjects including ‘Naval Retired Lists’. Three autograph pages in the fourth volume, signed by Newman and dated 10 October 1871, carry ‘A Statement in connexion with our Wars with “France” and other Nations’.Newman’s spirit and humour are evident throughout. On 17 September 1872 he writes, concerning a proposed memorial in Folkestone to William Harvey: ‘I was in Folkestone […], when a friend asked me if I intended to be at Woodward’s lecture that afternoon. I replied, No! as I could not condescend to be present to hear a man prate on a subject of which I believed he had not a competent knowledge, […] How contrasted to the time when I first knew him as the humble and obsequious Curate of Hythe.’ He reports a conversation he had ‘with a gentleman in the train from Charing Cross on the 2nd inst. On my route to Folkestone’, in which his interlocutor exclaims ‘I was nearly done by the Puseyite’. Newman’s comment is: ‘We parted at Ashford.’The final volume is concluded by Newman’s grandson A. R. Newman of 9 Grove Terrace, West Kensington, and contains a couple of obituaries of him (including one quoted above).